#phdchat, PhD, Reflections

Defending My Dissertation Proposal

Well there you have it. I successfully defended my dissertation proposal to my faculty committee on Tuesday. My proposal represents Chapters 1, 2, & 3 of my dissertation.

This slide deck might give you some insight, but probably not enough to cover my 89-page proposal. Really, this was just a visual to talk about my research plan. From this meeting, I have some helpful notes, comments, and questions to answer before moving forward with my data analysis. After I clean a few things up, I will be sure to detail more about my these chapters, specifically the literature review and research methods.

20140225_104145Our department also invites other researchers, including students, faculty and visiting scholars, to our dissertation proposal and final dissertation defenses. This open forum style provides other doctoral researchers with ideas and examples for their own research and defense. I have attended a few proposals (and final defenses) before presenting my own. These defenses are great learning opportunities to gain insight and ideas for the doctoral process. During this post defense meeting, I really do appreciate the SUPPORT and FEEDBACK given by my scholarly peers (near and far). Thank you all!

Although it is not the end (just one FINAL defense left), my faculty advisor told me to celebrate. Take heed of important milestones. It is important to recognize steps throughout the doctoral experience since it is a long journey. I am not finished; however my dissertation proposal lays the ground work for Chapter 4: Results and Chapter 5: Discussion, a.k.a. my contract to freedom and to finish my PhD. It’s go time.

Research Methods

Action Research Methods

Action research (Koshy, 2005), also known as participatory action research, is a method of research that can combine a framework for public, reflective inquiry.  It offers a way for academics and scholars to work with individuals or communities, such as learners or communities of practice, to investigate issues together to find a solution-oriented approach. For educational settings, this might often be the “teacher-as-researcher” research approach (Elliot, 1991; McNiff, 2013).


Image c/o New Mexico State University, College of Education Research and Budgeting

The premise for the action research method is that  researchers study with the subject(s), rather than research on or outside the subject(s) as a hierarchy or “expert” (Cousin, 2008). Action research is a journey that experiences transformative findings with linear, sequential relationship between the hypothesis, research activity and the research findings, i.e. a proposed solution.

Another branch of this research includes, community-based participatory action research (CBPR), involves researching a group or community where research is conducted:

by community members, so that research results both come from and go directly back to the people who need them most and can make the best use of them.

CBPR research will grow in education as it is impacted with emerging technologies and learning pedagogy design, while needing to meet standards and managing fiscal challenges. This research method allows for project ideas and measurement outcomes to be designed by the community population to shape the research agenda. Participation in research by the community often results in generating greater sociopolitical awareness and effecting systemic change in the community (Jason et al., 2004). From  other case studies described by Jason et al. (2004), CPBR has improved upon the quality of scholarly work, developed research outcomes, created intervention tools, and increased quality collaborations on projects.


Cousin, G. (2008). Researching learning in higher education: An introduction to contemporary methods and approaches. Routledge.

Elliott, J. (1991). Action research for educational change (Vol. 49). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Jason, L. A., Keys, C. B., Suarez-Balcazar, Y. E., Taylor, R. R., & Davis, M. I. (2004). Participatory community research: Theories and methods in action. American Psychological Association.

Koshy, V. (2005). Action research for improving practice: A practical guide. Sage.

McNiff, J. (2013). Action research: Principles and practice. Routledge.


AcAdv, AdvTech, nacada

NACADA TechTalks: Connecting 1:1 – Using Digital Tools to Enhance Advising


The NACADA Technology in Advising Commission is pleased to announce our next “NACADA #AdvTech Talk” happening on Friday, February 21st at 1 pm CST.

You may have joined us for previous NACADA TechTalks; however this upcoming event we will be piloting a few new technology platforms, such Google +Hangout ON AIR and the #advtech Twitter backchannel.

Connecting 1:1 – Using Digital Tools to Enhance Advising

{You can watch this event as we STREAM LIVE from this blog post, directly broadcasting from the NACADA #AdvTech YouTube Channel, or find the event on NACADA #AdvTech on Google Plus!}

About the upcoming NACADA #AdvTech Talk:

This interactive one-hour session will introduce you to a student-focused approach for using social media and other digital tools for academic advising.  Learn how to increase your accessibility for students by effectively communicating one-on-one via digital tools like instant-messaging, tweeting, and texting… all without overwhelming…

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Fashioning Circuits, Research Methods

Ethnographic Methods

In thinking about how to evaluate the curriculum and pedagogy for the #FashioningCircuits book with Dr. Kim Knight (@purplekimchi), I spent some time over the weekend reviewing  potential research methods for the project. Since I have used  ethnographic methods for a grant project Fall 2012 (studying culture and healthcare perceptions), I thought I’d revisit these as potential research methods and blog about it here.

Ethnographic Methods

Ethnographic is the description of groups, specifically these approaches appeal to those who are confident they have time to stay in a research setting (the field) for a sustained observation and informal interviewing (Cousin, 2008).


Typically ethnographic research derives from anthropology where communities or groups are studying for long periods of time (a year or so) for the “purpose of learning from their ways of doing things and viewing reality” (Agar, 1980, p. 6) where the researcher not only observes, but also interacts and talks with participants (Delamont, 2002, p.g. 8). Other data collection can be collected with communities also interact in online spaces and contexts. Ethnographers can study forums, wikis, blogs, or Twitter in the context of participant observation research to review the community and activity or historical research archive (Boellstorff et al., 2012).

A few selected strategies for research inquiry:

  1. Observation: Researchers will complete overt participant and observer review strategies which the ethnographer has negotiated access to the group to observe and participate in its activities (Cousin, 2008). Observations of this group will include notations about the environment, population, interactive order, and characteristics of the membership. In thinking about digital footprints, historical archives and other means of data collection for “observation” of this group is inclusive of blog posts, videos, tweets, and other online contexts (Boellstorff et al., 2012).

  2. Semi-Structured Interviews using the Ethnographic method (Schensul et al., 1999) provides researchers with a structured set of themes to organize the interview discussion. Unlike the structured interview, interviewers will be required to adapt, modify, and augment the prepared questions if they flow of the interview discussion suggests it (Cousin, 2008). The interviews discussions are “meaning making events” where the ethnographer utilizes “active interviewing” skills (Holstein & Gubrium, 1997). From a common list of questions, ethnographers will interview various members of the group. These interviews will be transcribed and evaluated for thematic information and content using a grounded approach.


Boellstorff, T., & Marcus, G. E. (2012). Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Princeton University Press.

Cousin, G., Cousin, J., & Deepwell, F. (2005). Discovery through dialogue and appreciative inquiry: A participative evaluation framework for project development. D. Taylor and S. Balloch (Eds.), The politics of evaluation, 109-118.

Cousin, G. (2008). Researching learning in higher education: An introduction to contemporary methods and approaches. Routledge.

Delamont, S. (2002). Fieldwork in educational settings: Methods, pitfalls and perspectives. Routledge.

Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (1997). Active interviewing (pp. pp-113). Sage Publications.

Schensul, S. L., Schensul, J. J., & LeCompte, M. (1999). Essential ethnographic methods. Walnut Creek.

AcAdv, nacada

What’s On the Horizon for Academic Advising?

Last week, I shared my thoughts about what academic advising might look in the future in higher education with an advising group.

Based on Lowenstein’s (2013) “Vision, Not a Prediction” description in his Academic Advising Approaches chapter, I shared my ideas of how the field of academic advising COULD contribute to evolution of post-secondary education. Lowenstein shares a number of insights and examples about how advising as a profession can move forward, so my talk focussed on HOW (specifically with examples) where faculty and professional advisors can enhance student development in terms of:

  1. Interaction with students to  contribute and encourage learning outside their curriculum.
  2. Influence to changes and developments on their own campuses.
  3. Integration into the broader focus and purpose of academia.

Much of this session discussed how higher education institutions and administrators would be the only ones to lead advising changes, unless the advising profession asked the following questions themselves:

  • What is the role of advising or the advisor in post-secondary education?
  • What will advising look like in 5, 10, or 20 years?
  • What do YOU want the profession of advising to look like?
  • What sort of advising “profession” do YOU want to participate in?
  • How can YOU contribute to the change and develops occurring in higher ed, specifically with regards to how advising is organized?

In thinking about my own responses to the above prompts, I know that advisors can be at the forefront of institutional and organizational change. A number of advisors I interact with and know are very forward thinking, innovative problem-solvers who want to contribute to research, teaching, or service initiatives for the profession. It is this type of critical thinking and resilience of this generation of advisors, that we need to step up to debate practices, contribute ideas, and become active participants in how the role of advising at our institutions.  Does this mean increased advising training and development, enhance qualifications, or greater expectations for advisors? Perhaps. I think the advising community of practice can decide that, and should before some one else in the post-secondary sector decides to take this challenge on without consulting advisors altogether.



Lowenstein, M. (2013). Chapter 14: Envisioning the future. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that   teach students to make the most of college. (pp. 243-258). San Francisco,   CA: Jossey-Bass.